According to “The State Program on development of viticulture in the Republic of Azerbaijan in the years 2012-2020” dated 15 December 2011, which was approved by the Order No. 1890, farmlands of table and technical grape varieties have been expanding year by year as a result of activities done to develop viticulture practices in accordance with modern market requirements. Every year about 200 hectares of wine-growing fields are increased on regional basis. Under the State Program, the total area of the vineyards should reach 50 thousand hectares and grape production 500 thousand tons in 2020. Supposedly, 30% of the harvest will be the table grape, while the remaining 350 thousand tons will be directed to production of branded wines.
Currently, about 40 winemaking enterprises in Azerbaijan operating under license produce natural wine, sparkling wine, liqueur, brandy, vodka, ethyl alcohol, cognac and so on. These products are exported to the US, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, Sweden, India, Vietnam, China, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and the Baltics. The local wine products are highly appreciated in Russian Federation - the largest market for the Azerbaijani wine.
In the early 1980s, as a result of targeted politico-economic and organizational measures implemented under the leadership of Heyder Aliyev, rapid development was achieved in viticulture and material-technical base of the enterprises was strengthened. In 1984, the total area of the vineyards made up 284 thousand hectares, wine production 2.1 million tons per year and productivity 100 centner per hectare. Azerbaijan was 1st in the whole Soviet Union for the grape production. The share of Azerbaijan in the Union for the production of wine and cognac were increasing regularly. Besides the production volumes, the quality of wine products improved significantly and the varieties extended. In the factories, more than 60 brands of wine and 10 brands of cognac had been produced, along with 17 varieties of sour table wine, 20 varieties of hot portwain wine and 11 varieties of dessert wine. These high-quality table and dessert wine, cognac- and champagne-style beverages produced in Azerbaijan had been awarded with 4 Grand Prix, 46 gold, 49 silver and 3 bronze medals in international exhibitions, degustation events and fairs. The wine products were exported to the countries such as Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Cuba and Mongolia. During those times, viticulture and the whole industry comprised about 40% of the state budget.
However, after the anti-drinking law of the Soviet leadership adopted in 1985, more than 130 hectares of productive vineyards and infrastructure developed for many years were destroyed and Azerbaijan’s economy suffered from the damage worth 630 million manat. On the other hand, economic crisis in the Soviet Union during the early 1990s had its negative impacts on this sector that caused disruptions in traditional relations between manufacturers and consumers. As a severe consequence, a lot of winemaking enterprises stopped functioning. The Nagorno Karabakh war was another barrier in this regard. The war resulted in loss of 30 plants with grape processing capacity of 320 thousand tons and 43.1 thousand hectares of vineyards. Moreover, 10 wine filtration systems were illegally taken by the enemy. The seizure of these plants alone had $500 million damage for the Azerbaijani economy. Of course, all these negative cases prevented to develop favorable conditions for the export of Azerbaijani wine globally.
One of the first steps taken to develop the wine market was the law adopted in 2002 on “Viticulture and Winemaking”. The results of this policy were effective. At present, the wine products produced in Azerbaijan are of higher quality than imported wine. Targeted state programs have been developed, price, credit and tax systems have been improved, licensing and certification rules have been revised to strengthen the legal basis of the winemaking industry. As a result of these strategies, Azerbaijan turns out to be one of the developed wine-producing countries and Azerbaijani wine gains popularity the world over. To this end, the degustation event of Azerbaijani wine was held in Washington with support of the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO). During the event, the wine produced by the enterprises such as “Absheron Sharab”, “Aspi Wineries”, “Az-Granata”, “Caspian Coast”, “Vinagro Goygol”, “Sharg Ulduzu” was tasted up. According to the experts, Azerbaijani wine has potential to win the highly competitive US market.
Generally, the wine-growing culture was high here even in the ancient times. Grape seed and leaves, stone relics for winemaking, large clay jars with wine stone traces and other artifacts found during archeological excavations have been attributed by the scientists to early times of the history of mankind. Various plant residues and grape seeds have been excavated around the Shomutepe historic monument near Agstafa that proves the culture of winemaking in Azerbaijani territories dates back at least 7 thousand years.
Currently, inclusion of Azerbaijan as a member into World Wine Trade Group is negotiated. The WWTG aims to develop this sector and achieve facilitations in wine trade and gathers together government and industry representatives of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, the US and Georgia. The membership of WWTG can lead to recognition, promotion of Azerbaijani wine and increase its competitiveness and popularity in international market.